(This is Neil) This coming Tuesday is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas. The readings can be found here (or, alternately, here). The learned Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar, Geoffrey Rowell, in his Credo column for the Times this week, offers some reflections.
Here, then, is an excerpt:
Simeon sees in the child the Lord coming to his Temple. The prophet Malachi had said that the Lord would come to His Temple like a refiner’s fire, to cleanse and purge, and purify. How can this be, in this small child? Christian devotion has wondered with amazement at the child carried in the old man’s arms, yet that same child was the old man’s king, God and Lord. The Lord has indeed come to his Temple, but the refining fire is the love that stoops down to the lowest part of our need. As Simeon cries out, this is “the light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of his people, Israel”. He goes on to tell Mary that her child will fulfil the destiny of love, the destiny of sacrifice, and she too will be caught into that refining fire — “a sword will pierce your own heart also”. Those close to this salvation, this redemption, are drawn into the self-offering that is at the heart of this transformation.
The Feast of Candlemas has many names. It is the Purification of the Virgin Mary. It is the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. In Eastern churches it is simply “The meeting”, or, if you like, the encounter — the encounter of human longing for deliverance, for salvation, for the healing of the broken lives that feed into a broken society, with the love of God that goes to the uttermost for each and every one of us.
Our society needs salvation, transformation. Each one of us needs our own salvation, healing, deliverance, wholeness. And that salvation comes so often through moments of meeting. What we call meetings, as we know so well, are often not meetings in any deep sense at all; but when we truly meet one another, when we are vulnerable to one another, when we disclose to husband or wife, to close friend, or counsellor or priest, something of our pain and our longing and our hope, then we can find that out of meeting comes salvation. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness is not able to snuff it out.
Candlemas has been called a hinge feast. In the last light of Christmas we turn to share anew in the continuing journey of the divine love. That journey brings us to a cross, a gallows, and to arms embracing us in love, pinned by rough and rusty nails to sharp, splintering wood. Love is always costly, and the love of God that comes down to the lowest part of our need is no exception. …
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